FAQs for Northern Illinois Counseling Associates, P.C. (NICA)
How do I know which mental health professional is really good?
In order to know which mental health professionals are really good you need to do a little research to learn from friends, family or respected community members about which providers truly appear to have something substantive of meaning and value to offer you.
A rule of thumb is to look for mental health professionals who are duly state-licensed, have several years of varied supervised clinical experiences and are ready, willing and able to answer any pertinent questions you may have regarding their education, training, licensure and professional orientation/philosophy.
Finally, really good mental health professionals generally should have a workable “fix” on you and your problem within one-to-four visits and should welcome the opportunity to openly discuss with you their clinical impressions, hypotheses, provisional diagnosis, and specific recommendations for further disposition, inclusive of a formal treatment plan, if clinically applicable.
Where can I find a licensed professional in my area?
Generally, you can find a licensed mental health professional in you geographic area you live by: (a) contacting the state licensing board (or department of professional regulation), (b) consulting with either the state or national professional association of the discipline you are interested in (for example, the American Psychological Association (APA), American Counseling Association (ACA), and/or National Association of Social Workers (NASW), or (c) searching online (which permit licensed mental health professionals to publicly list their credentials which you can then verify for licensure at the time you make or keep your appointment).
[Warning: If you decide to be evaluated or treated by an unlicensed provider, you do so at your own risk. Licensing does not automatically guarantee professional competence and adherence to ethical standards but it does increase the probability that the licensed mental health professional to whom you are entrusting your care and treatment has passed many stringent “tests” over the years of specialized education, supervised training and demonstrated familiarity with the relevant research literature.]
Will my insurance company pay for these services?
Many health insurance policies typically have some provision to pay for mental health benefits.
Prior to scheduling your initial appointment, be sure to review your insurance policy or contact your health insurance benefits administrator to find out exactly what specific mental health benefits are offered, and whether or not "pre-authorization" for services is required.
Verify the nature, limits and accuracy of your mental health insurance benefit and to obtain verification, in writing, inclusive of any required pre-authorization for professional services.
Some people will choose to pay "out-of-pocket" for their mental health services and not file insurance claims because insurance companies require that a "mental" diagnosis be used and sometimes they will insist upon a medication evaluation even when the client prefers not to be treated with drug therapy.
Who is available in the event of an actual life or death emergency?
If you or a loved one is experiencing a bona fide life and death emergency you are advised to immediately call “911” or go to the emergency center of your local hospital.
For non-emergency problems, call your treating mental health professional or “covering practitioner” (i.e., back-up), or their answering service. Briefly state what the situation is for you and clearly indicate whether a call-back from your counselor is necessary immediately, or, if a call-back is acceptable as soon as the treating mental health professional is able to get back to you.
Please be advised that charging fees for emergency and non-emergency services is a usual and customary practice for mental health professionals, so please be sure to utilize “emergencies” wisely and well.
What does my diagnosis mean?
Your diagnosis means that the various clinical “signs and symptoms” you have reported to your mental health professional have some recognizable pattern and can be “labeled’ for certain definable purposes. No diagnosis should ever to be considered as a sole explanation for why you are or feel a particular way.
In addition, the diagnosis of all diagnoses is always the person, NOT their descriptive label.
When is the right time to obtain competent counseling services?
The ideal time to procure competent professional mental health services is before your problem or difficulty gets out of hand. Unfortunately, too many people access services well after their circumstances are out of control. However, the right time to obtain competent counseling services is always now!
So long as there is life, there is hope.
About Fees and Payment
Professional fees for mental health services and payment policies are based upon the specialized training, education and credentials of the practitioner provider and whether or not the practitioner provider is contracted with your insurance company.
You should always feel free to discuss any aspect of fees and payment with your mental health professional just as you might with any other service provider.
Remember: if you have mental health insurance benefits, be sure to verify benefits with your insurance company. Please note that insurance represents a contract between you and your insurance company, not with the practitioner.
Can I communicate with my psychologist online?
Current mental health professional standards, ethical codes, and legal statutes in Illinois have not entirely caught up with the current electronic information technology revolution.
Consequently, psychologists in the State of Illinois are injuncted from providing any clinical psychological services, via email, online. Emails addressed to NICA's psychologists will be routed to administrative staff for further, non-clinical disposition.
However, the confidential electronic ZOOM platform has been deemed to be legally permissible for professional use and allows for the private online communications between you and your clinical psychologist from virtually anywhere in the world.
For additional information, refer to NICA's Social Media Policy (especially, COVID EXCEPTION AND SOCIAL MEDIA POLICY CAVEAT).